Hamas strongly condemned the launch of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Washington and said the goal was to “liquidate” the Palestinian cause.

The movement accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas of providing a cover for Israel to pursue its policy of settlement construction in the West Bank, eliminating the refugees’ “right of return” and Judaizing Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque.”

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Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and leaders of most of the Palestinian groups reiterated on Thursday that Abbas did not have a mandate to negotiate with Israel. The Palestinians would not recognize any agreement he reaches with Israel, they said.